2022's Top 5 Legal Industry Trends: Legal Workflow Automation

The legal industry is transforming before our eyes, bringing with it a host of new legal industry trends. New tools and workplace models are reshaping how firms operate. In this five-part series, we’ll analyze the top trends affecting the legal industry in 2022. First up: legal workflow automation. 

Legal workflow automation is already big business—a 2020 study revealed 48% of firms use automation-based legal technology. With the global market growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39% — and the booming need for legal tech in the COVID-19 era — this figure has likely only increased in the years since. 

So why all the fuss? 

Let’s analyze what legal workflow automation is, dig into the benefits it offers and outline which aspects of a firm’s work can (and should) be automated. Finally, we’ll explain how Smokeball uses legal workflow automation to make firms more efficient and accurate. 

What is legal workflow automation?

Attorneys complete myriad tasks daily. However, many of these tasks can be automated, especially those involving manual data-entry. This is where legal workflow automation — software that streamlines repeatable daily processes — comes in. By implementing automation-based tools, attorneys can focus their time and energy on matters that require their creativity and experience rather than low-value administrative tasks. 

How firms benefit from legal workflow automation

1. Increased efficiency
Legal workflow automation is mind-bogglingly efficient For example, it’s 21,131% quicker than attorneys when it comes to contract analysis, reviewing five NDAs in 26 seconds (compared to 26-minute average for human attorneys). JP Morgan’s contract analysis solution — COIN — can complete 36,000 hours worth of legal work in just seconds. 

Legal workflow automation could never replace attorneys when it comes to building client relationships or applying creative thinking to complex legal matters. However, when it comes to routine tasks with a set process, they’re undoubtedly more efficient. 

2. Increased accuracy
Efficiency without accuracy is worth little: There’s no point completing a job quickly but poorly.

Legal workflow automation is not only more efficient than attorneys at contract analysis, it’s also 9% more accurate. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising. We all rely on calculators for complex sums — so why would we not trust technology when it comes to data-heavy legal tasks? And perhaps more importantly in the legal field, automation helps avoid embarrassing case-detail errors like client or judge names that come from copy-pasting into previous forms.

3. Increased profits
Attorneys spend roughly 40% of their time completing non-legal, admin-related tasks (such as onboarding clients or invoicing). This is valuable time that they could instead spend on billable activities. By leveraging legal workflow automation to handle these processes, firms will be able to increase the amount of time attorneys spend on client-facing matters.

Which aspects of a firm’s work can (and should) be automated?

 A 2014 McKinsey analysis suggested 23% of an attorney’s work can be automated — in 2022, that number is likely much higher. Your firm should automate any tasks that are highly repeatable, don’t require creative thinking or involve complex calculations, including: 

  • Client onboarding 
  • Billing/invoicing
  • Time tracking
  • Document creation and analysis
  • Calendaring
  • Certain aspects of client communications 
  • Due diligence

Smokeball’s legal workflow automation capabilities

Automation puts time back in your day and confidence behind your most complex work. That’s why Smokeball built automation into the heart of our legal practice management software. 

Our document automation and automated legal forms library allow your team to easily create key legal documents from a library of 18,000+ forms, spanning 200 matter types. By pulling in key data from the related Smokeball matter, such as contacts and relevant parties, automation saves you  considerable time and eliminates errors. 

Smokeball’s automatic time tracking is a true game-changer. Because every minute spent in Smokeball is instantly tracked to the related matter, you’ll rapidly generate accurate invoices, eliminate manual timesheets and save time.  

Better still, your firm can automate entire workflows in Smokeball. Standardize a process — such as responding to an inbound lead and scheduling an initial consultation — then create the relevant workflow in Smokeball and let automation take the reins. 

In the next installment of this five-part legal industry trends series, we’ll analyze data security.

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